Friday, February 24, 2012

An American Dream (Sort of) in New Hampshire

On my way from Portland to Manchester, I took a small side trip to not only Portsmouth, NH but also Keene, NH because people told me it was a picturesque, historic New England town. 

The Keene Public Library caught my eye, a historic home (to the left) with a wing added (right).  

The reference librarian steered me to Alan Rumrill, Executive Director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County (above).  She said he had more stories than anybody in Keene.

Alan Rumrill told me the story of General James Wilson, a resident of Keene who became a general in the New Hampshire militia in the 1830s and 1840s.  When he was called upon to lead men in the Civil War, he declined, saying he was too old.

Wilson was involved in New Hampshire state politics in the 1840s.  He had many friends in state government, but he was lured to California by the gold rush.  His wife had died, but that didn't stop him from leaving his children and taking a government position in California.  His two daughters were in their early teens, and his son even younger.  

He corresponded with his daughters, who complained of being stuck in the house.  They had to go to school, of course, but “they were not able to have the opportunity to get out and socialize and have financial support to do those things other people were doing in the community,” Mr. Rumrill said.  “They also had the care of the younger brother.  Wilson didn’t send a lot of money back to his children.”

The general eventually came back to Keene, picked up where he left off, and was elected to the state legislature.  He died a local hero, a satisfying American dream come true, for him.

His papers were bequeathed to the Historical Society, where they lay dormant for years.  It was only when his correspondence with his children came to light, while two authors researched a book based on the correspondence entitled, “Sisters of Fortune,” that local opinion changed. 

“He’s now considered prominent politically, socially, and militarily in the area but is also seen as an inattentive father who was more concerned with doing things that were of interest to him than in caring for his children,” Mr. Rumrill said.

The office of the Historical Society of Cheshire County in Keene, New Hampshire, in a stately mansion that was part of someone's American dream.

Occupy Keene, hard at it mid-day on a weekday, working toward keeping the American dream a possibility for everyone, not just the 1%.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

From Portland, Maine I drove to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and then to Manchester.  I drove because the bus schedule was impossible -- a circuitous route that would have taken 15 hours to make a two-hour drive.

Portsmouth is a quintessential New England coastal town with lots of red brick commercial buildings.  The buildings along the waterfront evoked images of clerks with ink-stained fingers counting barrels of incoming freight and making marks in their ledgers.  Now, in these same buildings, waiters watch for customers in the tony bars and restaurants.

The pier along the waterfront was a tad inaccessible -- I had to lift a latch and commit trespass to get onto a restaurant's summer deck and take this picture.  Inaccessibility of waterfronts is nearly an unforgivable sin in my town-planning book.  But Portsmouth almost made up for it with interesting boutiques and great coffee shops throughout town.

Tugboats in Portsmouth, NH harbor.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gap - and not the Delaware Water Gap

I apologize for the gap in time between the last post and this one.  I had problems with my computer for two weeks.  Then I could not find my New England pictures in my reconstituted computer.  Totally panicky problems.

But the tech issues are resolved and this morning I found some of the photos!  So I can complete my bus trip around America with you.

For the last nine days of my trip, from Philadelphia on, I spent every night in a new bed.  It was a whirlwind.

From Philly I took the bus to New York City, stayed one night with my daughter, then took the bus to Boston, stayed one night with my brother, then took the bus to Portland, Maine for one night.  On the way to Portland, the bus stopped briefly in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and I knew I wanted to go back and explore.

In Portland I took the ferry to Peaks Island and back (above), then stopped by Occupy Portland and attended my first general assembly.  I was so impressed at how the meeting's "leader," chosen by group conscience, was careful to acknowledge everyone who wanted to speak, even the people that, if I were the leader, I would want to discourage because they tended to repeat themselves.

Remarks became heated and hands went up rapidly, and the leader kept up with it all.  She was the tiniest young woman in a knit hat with earflaps and tassels.  It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving in Maine, and the weather at 7 p.m. was milder than usual for Portland, but still chilly.

Occupiers planned to stay the winter in Lincoln Park.  Imagine winter in Maine in a tent!

Portland officials were not banning occupiers from the park, but they were putting some restrictions -- some that occupiers chaffed at -- around the occupation.  Officials told them they had to get rid of the blue tarps that they put around their tents for insulation.  The blue tarps are flammable -- I didn't know that.  They had to get Tyvek tarps instead.  They also had to move their tents and space them at least 10 feet apart, to create fire lanes in between.

It was fascinating to watch the orderly exchange of ideas and comments in an Occupy general assembly.  It is a true democracy -- everyone gets heard, everyone who wants to votes.  Kudos to the occupiers for taking a self-sacrificing stand against the ridiculous level of greed exercised at the top levels of business and government in our country today.  The greed will kill the American Dream for everyone else.  Do you agree?